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7) Write Your Paper: Book Reviews

A University of Lethbridge Library guide to common writing assignments.

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Books on Book Reviews

How to Write a Book Review

What is a book review?

A book review is a type of critique. In addition to summarizing what a book is about, a book review may analyze the book's main themes, evaluate the book's contents, or express the reviewer's reactions to the book.

What should I include in my book review?

Here are a few points to consider when writing a book review:

  • The general topic of the book:
    • What is it?
    • How does the book fit into it?
  • The book's purpose:
    • Why was it written? What did the author hope to accomplish?
      Note: The title, preface and introduction are useful in establishing this information.
  • The book's title:
    • Consider derivation, meaning, suggestiveness
    • Consider fitness and adequacy  or inadequacy
    • Is the title ambiguous or confusing?
    • Does it create a false impression?
  • The book's contents:
    • Type of book
    • Description
    • Narrative (i.e. is it fundamentally chronological, relating characters or events to some ultimate sequence in time)?
    • What are the author's main arguments or ideas?
    • How are they developed? (chronologically? topically? both? other?)
      Note: The table of contents, chapter headings, and sub-headings are useful in establishing this information.
  • The book's authority:
    • The author's ideas:
      • Are key words/concepts defined?
      • Is there internal consistency of ideas?
      • How well are the ideas or arguments developed?
      • Has the author used sources to back up his/her ideas? How reliable are these sources? Is there any apparent bias in the choice of sources?
    • The author's background and qualifications:
      • What are they?
      • What effect do they have on the work?
  • The author's style:
    • Writing
      • Simple or technical?
      • Spare or wordy?
      • Logical or emotional?
      • Other?
    • Suitability
      • To the author's purpose?
      • To the subject?
      • To the intended audience?
  • The book's format:
    • Aids to understanding
      • Charts, graphs, maps, statistics, illustrations, photographs (current, clear, related to text)?
      • Index
      • Bibliography (superficial or thorough? Annotated?)
  • Significance of the work in its field:
    • Relative to the author's other works
    • Relative to related works by other authors
    • Further work that needs to be done in the field
  • Final assessment of the book's quality and impact

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